This is the big one for The Witcher 3. Measuring in at 15GB on console, update 1.10 arrives with an essay's worth of patch notes - easily the biggest to date from CD Projekt Red. Among its 600 plus entries, we're mostly looking at bug fixes and gameplay tune-ups, and curiously no performance boosts are noted at all for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. But with each update comes a huge expectation that console frame-rates will - at last - see improvement. And after so many false dawns, we can safely say patch 1.10 is finally the one to deliver - for PS4, at least.
The good news first. PS4 benefits hugely from the update, and our first stress-test in Crookback Bog shows the biggest gains in the shift to patch 1.10. This area's fog and water transparency effects push the engine hardest, and notoriously, prior versions of the game locked PS4 to the 20fps line here. But with everything updated fully, frame-rates now stick closer to the 30fps line across the entirety of our run. At points this gives The Witcher 3 a boost of 10fps overall on PS4, and it overtakes a fully-patched Xbox One version in direct comparison.
Drops are still felt, and the graph hits 28fps at points - sometimes lower. But it's fair to say it's a step forward, and a much smoother gameplay experience overall in what were previously troublespots. As one of the worst case scenarios, Crookback Bog doesn't fairly represent frame-rates across the breadth of the game. Nevertheless, for the missions that include it, we're looking at a far more stable read-out.
Keeping with the PS4, this uplift applies for the more challenging cut-scenes too, where we can match each patch to the precise frame. Again we see performance is finally unlocked from the 20fps line, and though patch 1.10 still shows drops on PS4, they aren't nearly as low as they were in the previous patch. In comparison with Xbox One, the unlocking of this cut-scene's frame-rate means PS4 also now often leads by 2-3fps, just as with the Crookback Bog area.
The other major point of contention is the bustling Novigrad City. This gives us a double-whammy of good news on the latest patch - on PS4, at least. On the one hand, general consistency at 30fps is improved, and we also see fewer one off-stutters downward as we charge towards the gates. Earlier tests hiccupped all the way across this route - but on patch 1.10 the flow is seamless, and we get a smooth line at 30fps as we venture to inner-city territory.
As for the second plus; the distracting pop-in we saw across Novigrad is now minimised on update 1.10, for both PS4 and Xbox One. Wall textures and NPCs now load in properly as we turn each city corner, and blurry textures don't linger longer than they should. Patch 1.08 addressed this issue to a smaller extent, but we still saw townsfolk popping in a few metres ahead - sometimes still missing limbs. For the most part, asset streaming is better optimised on patch 1.10, and results hold up noticeably in side-by-side comparisons. This affects both PS4 and Xbox One, and picks up on one of the main bugbears with this city area.
However, it's not a complete improvement in Novigrad. PS4 performance drops notably as we move towards the marketplace area, giving us a stretch at 28fps that wasn't seen on the last patch. It's a small downgrade, but even on repeat tests we get the same, inferior result. On balance, the pros outweigh the cons in update 1.10, but it's curious to see PS4 performance dropping to patch 1.07 levels here.
Curiously, there is a way to squeeze better frame-rates from PS4 in this area (and by extension Crookback Bog). By running The Witcher 3 with the 'blur' and 'motion blur' effects disabled - as seen in its post-processing settings menu - PS4 is capable of getting closer to the 30fps line. There's a consistent margin in favour of tests with these effects disabled, in particular once we hit Crookback Bog's central village where it can feasibly sustain 30fps. A likewise test in Novigrad tells a similar story; a small performance boost once blur is switched off - though this is still shy of a perfect 30fps lock.
Either way, the PS4 version gets a step in the right direction with patch 1.10 installed - but how does Xbox One hold up by comparison? Sadly, across this analysis we get no performance boosts on Microsoft's console at all; Crookback Bog runs at more or less the same frame-rate as before, with a sustained update of around 25fps. Likewise, cut-scenes are note-for-note the same as before the patch in frame-rate levels.
The only real surprise is in how Novigrad City performs with patch 1.10 installed on Xbox One. Much like PS4, there's a downgrade as we follow the same path through the city streets - but in Xbox One's case it's a more stark difference. The drop from patch 1.08 is noticeable; going from a locked 30fps with occasional stutters to sustained performance at 24-26fps. This bears out across multiple re-trials of the same area, using the same in-game time of day and weather state. We have been downgraded - and compared to a fully patched PS4 version, the gap is as wide as 5fps as we canter down the city streets.
In other words, Xbox One's performance is identical to the last patch in almost every area, except for Novigrad City where we see bigger issues on patch 1.10. Alas, changing the game's blur settings (effective to a certain extent on PS4) doesn't bring us closer at all to Xbox One's 30fps target. The read-out stays the same with post-effects switched on or off, and it doesn't give us anything close to the the gains we see on PS4.
Overall, it's a mixed bag. Xbox One takes one step forward, and another step back - with better asset streaming in the city, but a notably worse frame-rate there as well. As for PS4, this is the first patch where the platform is so consistently ahead of Xbox One in performance terms. Previous updates had different scenes favouring one console or the other, but this patch ramps up PS4's delivery across the board; less stuttering while travelling the world, and a smoother return in matching stress-tests.
It's a lead that holds across all scenes on PS4, a version that already benefits from a 1080p resolution, compared to Xbox One's dynamic setup (resolving typically at 900p). Neither platform locks on to 30fps to a tee, but it's fair to say we're bounding ahead of The Witcher 3's shaky launch state. Patch 1.10 gives Sony's console the push in performance fans had waited for, and it's now a far more refined game. For PS4 owners resisting the jump into CD Projekt Red's epic, at least on technical grounds, this is a moment to reconsider.
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